We take it for granted, but lighting accounts for almost 30% of the electrical power used in the United States. Unfortunately, traditional incandescent lights are terribly inefficient and convert more electricity to heat than light. You might have changed to fluorescent lighting in the form of compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs), which look like little curly-cue screw-in light bulbs in an effort to save power. While these CFL bulbs are more efficient, they have a dirty little secret. Each bulb contains five milligrams of mercury, enough to make you and your family sick. Add them all up (plus the fluorescent tubes in your office or garage – which have many times the mercury of CFLs), and it’s an environmental and health disaster.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, if you break a CFL in your home you should evacuate the room with the windows open for at least 15 minutes, put the fragments in TWO plastic bags, and take them to a toxic disposal site. Do not vacuum, as this can spread the mercury throughout your house. And when one of these CFL bulbs burns out, it’s toxic waste, so don’t throw it away. Go to www.earth911.org to identify local recycling options. Do you really want to deal with that?
There is a better solution that is just hitting the market: LED (Light Emitting Diode) light bulbs. LEDs are a solid-state lighting technology with no annoying flicker that accompanies fluorescent lighting. LEDs are also about ten times more efficient than incandescent bulbs and unlike fluorescents do not contain any toxic mercury. Switching from traditional light bulbs to LED lighting is an effective, accessible change every American can make right now to reduce energy use at home and prevent greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to global climate change. ENERGY STAR qualified LEDs use up to 90 percent less energy than incandescent light bulbs, last up to 10 times longer. They cost more up front but provide a quick return on investment. This is an emerging field, so to see the latest LED bulbs available check www.ecoshoppe.com. Energy efficient lighting that’s good for your eyes, good for your power bill, and good for the planet. That’s living green.